Denver locks up Stapley for 2018-19
Brett Stapley averages approximately 24 minutes ice time a game with the Vernon Vipers. He would play the full 60 if head coach Mark Ferner would let him.
They really need one of those Disneyland child harnesses at the Viper bench since Stapley has caused a few too many men on the ice penalties with his enthusiasm for the game.
The crafty centre, who can stickhandle in a phone booth, has talked to a zillion NCAA Division 1 college recruiters and has made his decision: he will play for the Denver University Pioneers starting the 2018-19 season.
Stapley, who turns 18 next Thursday, flew to Minnesota last weekend and has drawn interest from several top-ranked schools. The Pioneers, who are No. 2 at 20-6-4, were an easy choice.
“Their whole coaching staff called me on speaker phone yesterday (Tuesday) and it was a no-brainer for me,” said Stapley, a 5-foot-10 native of Campbell River hoping to follow Pioneer alumni like Tyler Bozak, Paul Stastny and Jason Zucker into the NHL. “I called my parents and then called them back and they offered me a full-ride scholarship. They were my No. 1 choice.”
Stapley, a roadrunner in his second season with the Vipers, has 12 goals and 31 assists for 43 points in 48 games. He has no off button and competes at an extraordinary level.
Stapley first saw the Denver campus and rink when in Colorado with the North Shore Winter Club Pee Wees.
“I’m extremely excited to commit to Denver and grateful for this opportunity and now it’s time to get bigger and better while helping the Vernon Vipers win. One big reason I chose Denver is, like Vernon, they have a winning tradition and I want to be a part of that some day.”
Stapley, who racked up 138 points with North Shore Bantams before getting drafted by the WHL Calgary Hitmen, has flourished on a high-octane Viper forward line with Steven Jandric and Jimmy Lambert this year.
Said Ferner: “Good for Stapes. He earned that scholarship on his own and his teammates helped him too. That’s important with this group. That scholarship is well deserved and we couldn’t be happier for him. It’s a fantastic school with a top-notch hockey program and he’s going to be a hell of a college player.”
Ferner said Stapley sought more ice time in his rookie year but had to wait his turn.
“He was a young kid, 16, and still finding his way. We feel we teach the right things and he had to be patient. This scholarship is well deserved.”
Stapley talked to Denver assistant coach and former Pioneer David Carle multiple times before committing. Denver’s head coach is Jim Montgomery, a 47-year-old Montrealer who got in 122 NHL games with five teams after being undrafted (played college with Maine Black Bears).
Stapley, who used to ski, mountain bike and play soccer and hoops, and Viper goalie Ty Taylor are considered among the top 1999-born prospects in the BCHL.
Stapley will also join former Vernon Viper Liam Finlay, who is currently in his freshman season with the Pioneers.
Vernon d-man Shane Kelly will go on a fly-down to the Air Force Falcons in Colorado Springs following the Feb. 25 home game against the Trail Smoke Eaters.
The Vipers, meanwhile, host the powerful Victoria Grizzlies Friday night and entertain the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Saturday (6 p.m.). Vernon closes the regular season with a home-and-home series with the Smoke Eaters starting next Friday at Cominco Arena.
The Snakes get a first-round playoff bye so will get a 20-day break before their first post-season dance.
That rest may give forward Hunter Zandee a strong chance to return from injured reserve. He seriously injured a knee after taking a low hit from Tyler Ward of the Penticton Vees Jan. 25 in the Peach City.
Ferner said the 35-11-3-4 Grizzlies match the Wenatchee Wild and Penticton in talent, while playing a much more aggressive style.
Victoria is led by 20-year-old veterans Cole Pickup and Jake Stevens, both NCAA commits. Pickup has 25 goals and 62 points, including eight game-winners. He was suspended four games for a head hit on Lambert in a Nov. 5 tilt in Victoria.
Stevens, the Grizzlie captain from Chicago, has eight snipes and 50 points from the back end.
Vernon (28-17-5-4) may summon bruising forward Coleton Bilodeau from Major Midget in Kelowna for the Friday night affair. The Bulldogs are 16-28-7-2.